Population change and migration

The Bureau of Statistics earlier this week released the official data of the 2012 National Population and Housing Census. Interesting enough, the changes in the ethnic composition during the period 1980 to 2012 shows that the two main groups recording the highest percentage growth are the Amerindians and the mixed heritage groups. The numbers of each of these two groups have nearly doubled since 1980 and have almost offset the absolute decline noted for the same period in the two major ethnic groups.
According to the just released report, the Bureau of Statistics notes that with the reduction in the size of the entire population, the relative shares of the ethnic groups have expectedly changed with the two groups (Mixed and Amerindians), which have been consistently growing now, accounting for a greater share of the population at the expense of the two traditional dominant groups – the East Indian and African groups.
As it is, Guyana’s final population stands at 746,955, a decline of 4268. Undeniably, migration plays a major role in this decline. Migration has become deeply embedded in the psyche of Caribbean peoples over the past century and a half.
According to the World Bank data, it has evolved as the main avenue for upward mobility through the accumulation of capital – financial and social. Thus, the propensity for migration is high and there is a general responsiveness to the opportunities for moving whenever they occur.
As a consequence, there is a tendency for Caribbean countries to lose a disproportionate number of educated and skilled persons through migration, with a potentially negative impact upon small, developing states.
Education Minister, Dr Rupert Roopnaraine was quoted in the media as saying that according to a World Bank report, 89 per cent of tertiary-educated nationals aged 25 and older have migrated. The report titled “A Gendered Assessment of Highly Skilled Emigration”, by Frédéric Docquier, B Lindsay Lowell and Abdeslam Marfouk, stated that Guyana has the highest rate of migration of tertiary education graduates in the world and has really allowed itself to become “one of those cases where catastrophe has succeeded in remaining one stride ahead”.
Migration over the years has had tremendous impact on the strength of Guyana’s economy, with the educated and skilled citizens moving away to other countries.
Guyana is not an isolated case as brain drain is a matter of serious concern for almost all countries in the Caribbean. Globalisation has many complex effects, which will directly influence future trends in skilled migration from the developing world. However, it is time to explore solutions to maximise the benefits and minimise the losses encumbered. Initiatives need to be sought to retain qualified professionals and to encourage them to return from overseas.
Dr Lomarsh Roopnarine, in his paper “Guyana Population Movement and Societal Development”, stated that the return and transnational migration have had a profound impact on Guyanese society. The positive aspect is that returning Guyanese tend to introduce new skills, ideas, techniques as well as capital, which are much needed for growth and development.
Guyanese returnees are important sources of investment, as remittances have led to unprecedented levels of infrastructural development. However, there appears to be no sound action or procedure to capitalise on the benefits to be had from the Guyanese overseas Diaspora.
The final prognosis is that migration from and to Guyana will continue as long as there are unsound political and economic development in Guyana. As oil is expected to improve the economy, the administration needs to act now, to have policies, programmes and incentives to encourage Guyanese to return home.